Love on the Tracks, Tamsen Parker
Well, I adore Tamsen’s Compass series so when I saw this was keen to read. Its a very different style though, and felt very much more NA to me.
That’s fine, I do read and enjoy some NA, but somehow this one never really hooked me.
It was a Good read, Tamsen’s usual impeccable writing style where characters and scenes feel so real, but for me it wasn’t a Great read, and that’s what I was expecting. A case more of reader wrong expectations more than anything wrong with the story.
I did like both characters, enjoyed Zane’s songwriting, the way he and the band wanted to move forward but the label wants to keep on with the current successful format. I reckon that’s pretty true to life, those in charge of expenses are risk averse, they want to stay with a sure thing regardless of how bands/individuals feel.
Rowan was a good lead, loved the way her and her father had become such a close unit, enjoyed seeing how she came into Luge, a niche sport. On that note the whole SIG was really interesting, and unusual slant and one that worked well.
Having said all that somehow though the book failed to gel into a story that kept me hooked, I read it, enjoyed it but could have put it aside, and when a story is a great read that’s something I struggle with. When I find I can put it aside and read something else I know that for me its not a winner.
As ever though this is just my opinion, you decide for yourself if its one you’ll like. Its well written, no plot holes, good characters so will have many who love it as it is, just not me 😦
Stars: Three, a good start to a new series, but wasn’t a must-keep-reading novel for me.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
The Cartographer, Tamsen Parker, (The Compass series Book 6), Heartbreaker, Hollywood Hearts: Book 2, Belinda Williams
The Cartographer, Tamsen Parker, (The Compass series Book 6),
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance, erotica
I’ve loved this series, some books more than others. I wasn’t hooked with the first book, not totally, and looking back I can see that I just didn’t understand the story, didn’t understand or empathise with India. Now we’re at the end and I know so much more of the characters I could go back and my review would be very different.
This is Rey’s story ( Rey or Reyes you’ll be thinking – well, both are correct but for me Reyes is Reyes Farrow, Charley Davidson’s Big Bad…so this is Rey!) He’s intrigued me right from the start, the man behind the scenes, moving all the pieces around, sorting problems, finding partners, matching people perfectly. He’s such a true gentleman, so well mannered, (Cheetos with chopsticks) moral, kind, and he hates to see people abused.
He’s made it his life’s work to go where he’s needed, to make peoples lives better on an individual level. He’s firm but fair, always consistent, always thinking of the other persons welfare. (Baby’s First Safeword…that made me laugh and summed up Rey to a T).
He’s the star of the series for me, the person who’s most intrigued me right from the start, and the one who’s story I Really wanted. And what a cracker it was, definitely my favourite book.
This book is complete in itself, and for m/m readers they might be tempted to just jump in and read this without the others.
You can do that, you will follow the story, but you won’t get that satisfaction of really seeing how Rey deserved his own person to love, how the reserved, quiet, confident person was hiding a secret, and won’t get the feeling of sheer joy, utter bliss when he realises he too can have what he’s done so long for others.
Tamsen’s writing is so fluid, her stories so complex and full of details that create a feeling of reality, that it would be a shame to miss the early ones. She writes erotica, but its not wall-to-wall sexfest, but erotica of the more sensual type, where its not just d icks in a rse or p ussy, (gah, I hate that word, so twee, but there really isn’t a decent substitute), but a drawn out process, taking the reader on a seductive journey, a careful build-up to the climax…..
So if that’s the kind of read you like, compared to the spoon fed, in-your-face sex novels you’ll love these.
So, Rey meets Allie, tending a bar disastrously, covering for his sister that night.
Allie is so genuine, so kind hearted. He adores his sister and her two kids, and left the military where he was really happy, so he could help her when his best friend, her husband, was killed in action. Its just them, no other family and life is always a balancing act.
Allie puts them first in everything, but he’s got pride and won’t accept Rey’s help. That frustrates Rey, he’s got the money, why won’t they let him help, they really need it, but he also understands pride – he’s got enough of that himself.
As well as Rey and Allie, we meet Matthew, who’s been in previous books but I’ve never been quite sure of the role he plays in Rey’s life, Kendra, Allie’s sister, her two kids and also Rey’s mother. She’s a fabulous woman, I’d love to be her as I age.
We get updates too on characters from the previous books, which was fun to read.
The story is wonderful, how Rey falls for Allie and vice versa, two totally opposite people on the face of it, but who are instantly attracted. Allie’s very proud, Military man but comapred to Rey, a real innocent, and he doesn’t realise he’s a Sub. Rey is a master at this and can see it from the tiny gestures he makes though. We get a true insight into just how patient, how strong and safe Rey makes people feel, how he doesn’t dominate by force but by trust, and he thinks and teaches that this is the only way. He’s truly is an inspiring man.
Of course he trains people and finds them life partners, he doesn’t keep anyone, and that’s the plan with Allie. A little arrogant of him that he doesn’t actually tell Allie this I thought, although he does say he doesn’t do permanent relationships.
Plans have a way of going awry though, and its clear to everyone except Rey that he’s in love with Allie, that Allie loves him. Rey doesn’t allow himself that though, and the reasons why are heartbreaking. I so felt for him, felt for Allie too, he was blindsided by events.
I do love this fall apart sad bit in a romance and maybe my only crit of this book was that though I could feel the sadness on both sides, it didn’t really seem to come over strongly enough. I needed to feel Rey was really down, desperate, heartbroken and he was, but he was also carrying on his life, though finding it hard. Somehow I just like characters to really hit the bottom and Rey only felt halfway down to me.
Its a tiny issue though compared the enjoyment I got from reading this fantastic story, and I know I want to go back and go through all the books again. I’m sure I’ll get so much more, understanding the characters better, seeing the little clues I missed first time round.
Stars: Five, a fabulous finish to the series, wraps things up, and brings us full circle, but I’m so sad at losing these characters. Still, there’s always re-reading!
ARC supplied for review purposes by author
Heartbreaker, Hollywood Hearts: Book 2, Belinda Williams
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
I loved the first in this series, Heartthrob, and was keen to read more.
We met Lena in book one, and this time she’s centre stage and Ally is a secondary character.
I really enjoyed this, a little romance, a little mystery but it didn’t grab me in the same way Heartthrob did. I think the way Ally was so badly treated by the Hollywood B itch crews was what made that one so special, and of course Ally and Jacob.
I like Lena and Marc but they didn’t have the same chemistry for me as Ally and Jacob, more of a subtle slow burn romance there.
Its a fun spin through the issues fame brings, whats acceptable and how much of a private life can a star have? Its weird the way people see the screen/stage personas as the real ones and fancy themselves in love with them – or conversely love to hate them. I’ve never really understood how supposedly normal people do that, get caught up in fantasy lives and imagine them real but it happens. A lot.
Lena’s had stalkers before and Marc has been part of the team who deal with them. She also has her own long time security team, but she can’t live life glued to someone’s side, can’t spend her days looking over her shoulder worrying if someone is out to get her.
Yet however tight her precautions there are ways round them, and once more she’s caught up in danger.
I do like Lena, very famous and yet straightforward, down to earth and part of that I think is her good freinds, who don’t fawn at her feet but remind her she’s just a person. She’s not really the type to take advantage of fame anyway, she’s a really good lady, not a pretentious jerk like some become.
I felt for her when she’s trying her best to keep her life normal, as normal as a film stars life can be anyway.
Marc, he seemed so grumpy, almost rude with his genuine dislike against all things Hollywood, and yet his background is steeped in it.
Maybe its the fact he didn’t follow the family footsteps, maybe its the things he saw and did while serving as his country. War brings out things we should never see and the effects are very long lasting on people’s psyche.
He’s determined to protect Lena though, even while clearly disliking her world, and then the film bosses decide he needs to be very close to her, so he becomes her boyfriend for the public.
Of course his security issues mean he needs to use a false persona, but the press start to wonder – who is Lena’s mystery man. And her stalker ups the pressure on her and the dangers.
Its a fun read, I had a little idea who the stalker might be but not til maybe three quarters through the book.
Lena and Marc didn’t have the magic sensuality that made me so love the first book, but there was a real sexual tension at times between them which was perfect.
I love Lena, not so sure about Marc. By the end I liked him, but it took a while for me to get past his Hollywood Hatred. I kept thinking – why take jobs there when clearly you feel its all superficial?
I never really came to understand why he felt this way, and maybe that’s behind some of my prejudice towards him.
Stars: four, a perfect escape with a little drama mixed in to spice up the romance.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Due South, (The Compass 5),Tamsen Parker
Genre: Romance, Erotica
I love Tamsen’s Compass series, and this time, book five, we meet Lucy and Evans. Its a bit of a departure from the other stories, not the usual Dom and sub story, but more two people who aren’t in to BDSM but get a hint that they might actually like it. Kind of Compass Lite 😉
Evans and Lucy aren’t into the BDSM scene but then they see India and Cris one night and it shocks them both – they never imagined their boss, the ball breaking, fair but tough woman, would be a sub….and they like what they see, very much.
Its something that’s probably true of very many people, don’t fancy the whole thing, or have never experienced any of it but when they get an introduction, even by unintended voyeurism, they like what they see.
Its why Ann Summers and co do so well. People don’t want to be that open, don’t want to go to a club, but a bit of fun at home appeals.
They are so entranced by what they see that its made them both very turned on, and things happen that lead to some scorching sex.
Office rules forbid office relationships though, and both need their jobs. They agree that as no-one else is likely to be around, it being Christmas and they the only ones working on the special project, they could have a short term bit of fun.
There’s some cracking humour here, funny quotes from both of them that had me sniggering…
Evans- “if I kept a sword in my office I’d throw myself on it. As things are I’ve only got some pencils in desperate need of a sharpening, a ruler and some paperclips. I couldn’t even injure myself in a dignified manner”
As well as the humour there’s a serious thread, how Evans is tied to his family, how families struggle when things breakdown, and of course poor Lucy’s strong religious upbringing. The sort where someone with generous boobs is told constantly to be aware of not tempting men to do things they shouldn’t.
That old Always the woman’s fault for wearing provocative clothes, looking the wrong way at a man, wearing makeup etc that drives me nuts. What about teaching the men self control, to respect a lady? Sadly its an idea that permeates even a so called modern secular society, where girls/ladies get the blame constantly.
Lucy keeps second guessing her actions, and even though she knows her family’s ideas are wrong she still can’t quite let go of the blame.
Of course the few days come to an end after some serious hot and erotic sex, and neither really want to stop but they’re both so polite, so self effacing, so not convinced that the want is there for the other person too…so what’s going to happen now?
Its a great read, a really nice story, with some steamy encounters, but I did miss the drama of the other stories.
And like many others I’m Desperate for Rey’s story, he’s been tantalised all through the novels, and even though he’s not In this one he’s still there in thoughts when Evan recalls his advice back when India was having a freak out over going in a plane. His book is next – hurrah, I really want to see how he started, know him better than just the man behind the scenes, and India’s good friend.
ARC supplied for review purposes by author
School Ties, Tamsen Parker
I loved Tamsen’s Compass series, once I really got to know the characters. This time its less intense BDSM and more forbidden romance. Well – forbidden as far as teacher/student goes.
It must be a difficult scenario when teachers are only a few years older than those they are teaching, and if they met in a club, pub, via friends or something it would be fine, but put in the teacher/student bias and its not. Its a far cry having people with just four years between them as Erin and Shep do, to a teacher that’s in thirties or forties carefully grooming a 12 or 13 year old.
So Erin’s back at her beloved aunt and uncle’s school, as a teacher. Its where she feels at home, where she’s wanted to be all along and its her dream job. First day of teaching a student catches her eye – and its Shep.
He’s seems to be attracted to her too, but its a road they can’t travel and both determinedly avoid it though we can still feel that tension between them, can see in Shep’s art how he feels about Erin.
There are a few incidences that show just how strong they feel about each other, nothing actually happens but the intensity of what goes on when they meet in innocent situations is there.
Fast forward 4 years – things have changed for both of them. Erin’s been married and divorced, and her husband’s attitude has sapped much of the confidence she had, made her feel she wasn’t good enough.
Shep comes back to the school, as a teacher and they begin a tentative relationship, but they struggle with some things, Erin’s worry over being good enough, her ex cheated on her and though she didn’t love him it still hurt, and Shep’s home situation, that wasn’t good and he wants to give his younger brother the chance at Hawthorn that he had.
I loved Shep and Erin, but the story was a little – meh…seemed to drag a bit, long periods of nothing really happening. I guess after the drama and intensity of Compass I was expecting ore of the same and it isn’t.
Still, that’s down to me and false expectations, this is marketed as simple romance. Maybe it was the air of forbidden romance along with the earlier books that made me expect a story that would be deep, where there were real dangers if their romance was discovered, but in fact for the first half or there about they don’t do more than exchange a few looks, think about how the other is feeling, have occasional innocuous conversations and it just felt a little slow for me.
Its a well written story, great characters but I just felt there wasn’t really much going on.
Stars: Three, a good read, just not a great one for me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
True North, (The Compass 4), Tamsen Parkerhttp://amzn.to/29Y9pHx
I’m really getting into this series now from a somewhat tentative start, and love Tamsen’s writing style. It’s a story that draws you in, real characters, believable plots and of course lots and lots of hot, erotic sex. The well written kind, not the squirky, twee, mealy mouthed sort . I’ve been compiling a list of stomach churning sex terms – none here thankfully, but at the weekend I read one novel where, I kid you not, the terms “curls of her divide, her pleasure point, sliding his enormity into her…” were used…. I’ve also found fluttering, quivering openings, and man meat/man muscles, mushroom caps in other reads. I just can’t take a romance seriously when things like that crop up, and thank goodness Tamsen doesn’t do that. Sniggering when you should be rapt with sensuality just isn’t right!
Anyway – enough of that – this book. Well, I recall Slade from ( I think ) book 2. I love the way authors can create a whole story from a character, who’s almost a fleeting thought in an earlier book, and it was great to see more of him, see why he was so obnoxious to people. Boy was he that, and as for poor Pressley, well the wonderful Reyes soon put him right.
India, I’ve had issues with her but she was generous enough, even after how she’d been treated, to tell him he needed professional advice…well, in her own way, she was hurting in more ways than one at the time.
That intrigued Slade. Could there really be more people with his needs, was he really not so weird, different, someone who needed to be avoided?When I realised how he felt about himself it all made sense, and though I hated the way he’d been treating people, once I understood him I had more sympathy. I’m glad he wasn’t my boss though.
Then he meets Reyes, and Rey doesn’t stand for any nonsense from him, lays his conditions on the line while reassuring him he isn’t weird, a pervert, but someone with specific needs, which he has to learn to control. He makes it clear one step out of line and he’s alone again. Then Rey takes him to a club where he gets a huge surprise…massive!
It gives him a second chance, and I loved the way he tried so hard, struggled, loved the way Pressley had changed, had grown more sure of herself, and the struggles when politics got caught in the play. I love the way all this takes place over months, so many books cram huge changes in the characters lives into a few weeks, even just a few days sometimes and for me that just isn’t believable, that you can change habits and inclinations of years in such a short time.
A great read, made richer by the tantalising glimpses of the wonderful Reyes – I am so, so eager to read his story. From the first book I’ve found him so intriguing and I’m so keen to know more about him. And Matthew too of course, that’s one relationship that’s kind of hung out before the reader, dangled but kept very elusive, nothing is really given away. Are they lovers, emotionally or physically, or is it a D/s relationship only. I need to read more of Rey ASAP Tamsen!
Stars: Five, a cracking read.
ARC supplied by Author
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Uncharted Territory, (The Compass 3) Tamsen Parker
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: Erotica, Women’s Fiction
Well, Wow, I’d enjoyed the first two books but felt they were more sex than story, and I was always intrigued by What went Before. How India met Rey, how she met Hunter and what went wrong between them. This book answers all that ( and now I’d love one with Cris and his previous sub of five years….)
We meet India at 18, where she first comes across Rey at uni. He’s the man we love, the stalwart for her right from the start. they really do have a special friendship. we see more of her parents too and I feel I understand India better now. What a pair they ( her parents) were…
Then she meets Hunter and the BDSM world via Rey, and its instant attraction on both sides, and they’re together as D/s for the next six years. He’s always pushing for more, and seems to resent any little attempt she does to keep a bit of independence. I feel what he really wants is a 24/7 D/s thing and India just doesn’t. Slowly though he takes over more of her life. What I love about some BDSM reads such as this is the way the psychology is explained, the way we get to see that even though we ( I) feel that whipping, caning, leaving bruises etc is awful, some people need it, crave it and like India it gives them a mental release from their day to day stresses. I’d hate it, hate to give over control but this way I at least understand what some people get out of it. Its stressed too, throughout the book that safe words and consent are paramount at all times. There are times though when Hunter in his quest for control goes too far, and the hairdresser scene had me really upset for India and so angry with Hunter. It illustrates what sometimes concerns me, when a sub is so anxious to please her Dom she will agree to something she really doesn’t want to do….it’s a fine line that a good Dom watches for, and more than once I felt Hunter ignored it he was so keen to be in total control. Then it makes me wonder why he needs that control, what happened to him? One could go on for ever ; –)
Then it all goes wrong, and its shock after shock. Her parents – what an awful thing to try, and Hunter – he’s like a different man, callous, vindictive and knows exactly where to aim his words for maximum effect. Thank goodness for the solid always there Rey. ( He needs a happy ending too- I love that man)
Its not a romance, its not a HEA sweet read, but it’s perfect at what it is, a prequel explaining how India got where she was, and the story takes precedence her over the sex perfectly. There is sex, but it fits. Its part of the story and not just the story itself. I loved this book, and it’s made me understand India so much better.
Stars: Five, fabulous, gripping read.
ARC supplied by author/publishers
Intimate Geography, Book 2 of The Compass Series, Tamsen Parker
Genre: Romance, Erotica.
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
This picks up where book one left off, and India has dropped everything to be with Cris in the hospital. She barely moves from his side while he’s unconscious. He’s of course delighted to see her after she broke things off once he wakes, and it seems as though she’s taken a huge step forward with what she can give emotionally. Soon he’s home with a private nurse staying, and though India stays at first she has to return to work. It seems hard now being away from Cris, but they phone frequently and she’s back to visiting when she can. Cris cautiously makes a huge breakthrough with her when she agrees to meet his parents, but the anxiety it causes is huge, even though she was fine talking to them in the hospital.
Work is giving her problems too – she’s doing really well but two key staff members leave at a really bad time. It means she has to take on even more, and of course Jack is always seeking new work – that’s the point of owing a business of course, so there doesn’t seem to be any let up. Pressures mount and what she’s been avoiding for many years happens, she gets sent to troubleshoot a problem in Chicago…..the city which she swore never to return.The work pressures are mounting, her worry over Chicago is taking over her thoughts, and its only her time with Cris that keeps her going. This continues over the next few months, and its hard for both with her free time being very restricted.
Its an on-off round about romance. They’ve moved forward a few steps but India seems to Cris to drag her heels every step, and there comes a time when it looks like she can’t or won’t move forward any further. In the midst of this she and Cris split. He wants more than she can give, of course he does. They’re clearly far closer than just Dom and sub, but India is clinging to her rules, to the format that’s kept her mentally sound for so long. Cris wants more – or at least the hope of more, and she just can’t give it. He has to decide – is this weird half life romance going to be enough for him or is it time to cut loose? Its comes at a harsh cost for both of them. She’s heartbroken all over again and the wonderful Rey once more steps up. She can’t go back to her old casual one off weekends though – Cris has changed her and that just doesn’t appeal any more. It means she makes what could be a very dangerous decision.
I love Cris, he’s a really wonderful, thoughtful, giving man and what he wants is really very simple, someone to share his life as a partner, not as a sub with rules and restrictions on what he can do and say. Its not really so much to ask is it – especially as he’s clearly very understanding of India and her problems? After all if you love someone you don’t want to hurt them do you? I so felt for him, he seemed to be the one doing all the giving, making time to understand India, to work with her and help her and she seemed to me to be all take.
India – I found it hard to like her to be honest, and I think that’s the root of my problems with the novel. I know she’s had a traumatic childhood, and then the disastrous years with Hunter, but one can’t keep hanging on to hurt forever, and using it as an excuse to keep others at a distance. That’s putting the blame on them for things they haven’t done. She seems to do just that though.
Rey, what an incredible friend, he gives up so much for her, drops everything to be with her when she needs him, no matter how important it is. He’s looked after her for so long and yet I can’t seem to pinpoint anything she’s actually done for him – it’s a very one sided relationship, much as I see her relationship with Cris. Her need to keep her life compartmentalised just isn’t working any more, but she’s stubbornly clinging on. Then Rey does something, it’s needed and had a good outcome but she’s distraught, angry at him, hurt, and she cuts him off. He knew this would likely result and yet as a true friend he put what she needed first. She can’t see that, can’t see how much she’s hurting him and once again I get the feeling she’s very self centred.
Can she find a way forward with Cris, can she find the right life/work balance and can she ever forgive Rey, and get back their friendship? Its all in the balance, and we see much more of her life at work and outside the sexual side, in this part of the story. We see how she’s slowly changing, how she overcomes some of her huge fears that have held her back, and through that she looks at herself IMO and sees how difficult she makes life for others, even her subordinates at work.
I enjoyed this book more than the first, there seemed much more story, and I enjoyed that, looking between the lines, the events, to see what I thought would be the outcome. There’s a brief epilogue too, showing the reader how things turn out. I like those, they satisfy my curiosity about things – that the HEA really is going to work and isn’t just a quick fix that falls apart once again.
Stars: Four. I felt this had much more balance and story that part one and I enjoyed it. I could see India moving forward but TBH I still found her hard to like, and that’s probably why this isn’t a five star for me.
ARC provided by Netgalley and publishers.
Personal Geography, Book 1 of The Compass Series, Tamsen Parker
Genre: Erotica, Romance.
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
I do like erotica but for me it needs to have solid story backing it, and that was missing for me here.
India copes with her past problems by treating herself to some very special weekends away. I felt for her once we knew what her past problems were. That was some time coming though, and til then we just see her as a very talented, hard working, ambitious person who uses her weekends to deal with the stress her job causes. Until we knew what had happened I just couldn’t really get a sense of her, what kind of person she really was, I couldn’t seem to relate to her. Her friend Rey – he’s a real star, a gem of a friend and just what she needs. He picked her up and helped her the first time her life fell apart, and even now he’s always there when she needs him and does so much to look after her, and he’s the ones that organises her weekends away, who checks out the Doms and ensures she will be safe. Everyone needs a Rey in their life, but few get it.
Cris, he’s a Dom through and through, and enjoys their weekends. Up til him India hasn’t done repeat ones, but somehow they’ve developed a regular routine and they are both only sexual with each other and no one else. Its pretty clear he wants more, but her rules are very strict and anything personal is out. He slips up one time and she almost cuts him off, so he’s very careful. Her reaction then seemed OTT to me, and even though I by then knew some of her past it still felt too much, and I just felt they were developing a relationship where she was calling all the shots, and apart from sex Cris wasn’t really getting anything else out of it. I’d have liked to know more about his past, about his previous sub, we’re told they were together five years but not why they split and I’m curious…maybe that will come later. I feel somehow we haven’t seen the last of Hunter too, and wonder if India’s job is somehow going to interact in some way with her private life. .
Towards the end there’s a huge shock, something really serious, an event that follows after more sparks between them, and opens up the way forward for the next book. It felt very real and I understood Cris then, and it did seem to fit what I thought about him, and what I thought could happen with India if she let it. Overall though I felt there was lots of D/s, lots of BDSM but the actual story, the parts that make me see the characters as real and wonder what can happen wasn’t enough. I got a taste when I needed a full meal. I felt they really only had sex in common. As ever though this is just me, and others will feel very differently. I did enjoy this enough to want to read more, it was a good read, just not enough for a five star one for me.
Stars: Three and a half . Its good read, but I needed more story, more relationship potential.
ARC provided by Netgalley and publishers.